When neighborhood resident Brad Wagoner saw planes fly into the World Trade Center on 9/11, he wanted to help.

Wagoner contacted the local chapter of the American Red Cross and started undergoing training on disaster preparedness. After his training, he joined a disaster action team. Now Wagoner spends many of his weekends responding to fire calls in the middle of the night. He and other volunteers help families who are victims of fire with their immediate needs — clothing, shelter, food and calls to other family and insurance companies.

“We provide the ability for them to get their bearings,” Wagoner says. “You’re giving a person direction. It feels good — lots of hugs, lots of handshakes, lots of tears. You also feel tired.”

Wagoner also is part of the Red Cross Disaster Services Human Resource System, a national pool of volunteers called out when a catastrophic disaster hits. During Hurricane Katrina, Wagoner was one of hundreds of Red Cross volunteers who traveled to Louisiana to help. The Red Cross had trained him in response technology, so he spent several days installing radios and setting up phone services and satellites.

Now he’s hoping other neighborhood residents will join him in being prepared and trained to help during a disaster

“What we hope to have happen is to interest other residents in the area to be prepared to help Dallas, and in particular East Dallas,” Wagoner says. “To act and help, no matter the incident. Whether it’s an ice storm, whether it’s a tornado, whether it’s an influx of citizens from the Gulf Coast.”

The American Red Cross has partnered with the City of Dallas for the “Be Red Cross Ready” campaign, recruiting volunteers to help run shelters during a disaster. David Reyna, an AmeriCorps member working with the Red Cross on the campaign, says to work at a shelter, a potential volunteer needs about nine hours of training.

Before Katrina, the largest shelter run by the local Red Cross accommodated about 200 people a week, Reyna says. After Katrina and Rita, about 24,000 people were sheltered in Dallas. The Red Cross and City of Dallas had about two days to prepare a shelter, and part of that included training volunteers in a short amount of time.

The Red Cross would like to have volunteers ready to go when a disaster hits. Over the next few months, Reyna will offer training in our neighborhood for potential shelter volunteers.

Wagoner says the training is crucial to be able to offer the best help when a disaster hits.

“Doing it right is a key aspect of it, and that’s what the Red Cross does,” Wagoner says. “I love the movement. I’m focused on preparedness.

“It brings me back to my Boy Scout days. I had let that lapse since I was 14. I need to be prepared. My family needs to be prepared. My city needs to be prepared. And I do what I can to help with that.”

For information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcrossdfw.org or call Reyna at (214) 678-4714.